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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Interview with WDBJ7 on the fiscal cliff

An interview I did this afternoon with WDBJ7 on the meaning of the fiscal cliff. They even worked in a skate ramp analogy:)

Another day at the office 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Tis the season!

There sure are a lot of us!
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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Presentation for VSCPA

Yesterday I had the honor of giving a presention on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) for the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants (VSCPA) at Hidden Valley Country Club.

I have given talks about the health care bill to a variety of groups, including physicians, but this is the first time that I have presented to a room full of accountants. Attendees received CPE credit.

My talk focused on the economic impacts of the employer mandate. This has been the focus of my earlier presentations, but this one differed in that I focused on the tax assessments.

Additionally, I had more concrete examples of employers responding the way that I have predicted (since we are moving closer to the January 2014 start date of the mandate); namely cutting hours to shift workers to PT status (30 hours/week) and laying off workers.

I suggested that accountants should familiarize themselves with the rules. Employers with 50 or more employees fall under the mandate. This includes separate businesses owned by the same person. For example, someone could own a garden store with 20 FT employees and a restaurant with 30 FT employees. The IRS will view this as the sum of the two (50 FT employees) in terms of assessment. Additionally, spouses should be careful when they own separate companies. The IRS could view your companies together and the couple could find both businesses falling under the mandate, even if separately they employ less than 50 workers.

How much are the assessments? There are several assessments, but the most damaging is the one for firms not offering health insurance. Suppose a firm employs 60 FT workers and does not offer qualified health insurance after January 2014 and one of their employees goes to the state exchange and uses federal subsidies. The firm will be assessed (60-30)*$2,000=$60,000 for 2014. (The government is quite pleased to remind you that the firm gets the first 30 workers free!)

What are the alternatives for this firm?

The average premium for an individual plan in 2007 (and it has risen since) was $4,704/year and $12,680/year for a family. A common value used to estimate qualified coverage is 80% of the average, or $3,763 and $10,144, respectively. If an employer covers 70% of the premium, this would require an employer to pay $2,634 per individual plan and $7,101 per family plan. The firm with 60 FT workers would see their expenses increase in 2014 by 60*$2,634=$158,040 to 60*$7,101=$426,060!

The choice between offering and not offering is an easy one: do not offer and pay the fee! This will result in a rush of folks to the state exchanges...which have yet to be set up.

Other alternatives include moving 11 of the workers to PT (moving the firm under the threshold for the mandate) and filling additional gaps with other PT workers. Imagine being one of the workers that was working over 30 hours per week and now being pushed under. Additionally, the worker has the added cost of purchasing health insurance through the state exchange as they fall under the individual mandate at a time that their income has fallen (unless they can find another PT job, but those are increasingly hard to get in the current labor market.)

If you would like to see the presentation you can find it below.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Roanoke College Economics: Paper by Dr. Kassens and three students published

This is a cross post with the blog I manage for the Roanoke College Economics Program.

I am so proud to have a paper published with this great group of former students. All of them are now on exciting new post-collegiate paths.

Roanoke College Economics: Paper by Dr. Kassens and three students published: Almost two years ago Dr. Kassens mentored six undergraduate students' independent study/Honors in the Major projects. After the conclusion o...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Unemployment and online search patterns

One of my current research topics relates to online search patterns and labor market indicators. Of particular interest is the correlation between search patters for social (ex. divorce) and health (stress, anxiety) issues and unemployment as measured by both the rate (monthly) and unemployment insurance claims (weekly).

I started this project earlier this year with my student assistant Kerry Murphy. Kerry gathered a tremendous amount of data relating to search patterns for our predetermined list of social and health issues. Additionally she collected unemployment rate and claims data between 2004 and the present.

Now it is my turn to get to work. Roanoke College is currently on fall break and I am using this time to catch up on some much neglected research time (and blogging). Already there appears to be a relationship between searches for "stress" and "unemployment" (a proxy for the unemployment rate) in the Roanoke-Lynchburg, Virginia region between 2004 and 2012 as you can see in the graphic below.

My econometrics students are currently working on their research projects. I hope to get their feedback on this online search pattern and economic indicator manuscript over the course of the semester.

Any ideas on other search terms, either social or health related, that might be correlated with the unemployment rate or unemployment insurance claims? Send them my way!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Writing for Women Talk Sports

A little over a month ago I started blogging for the site "Women Talk Sports." Their mission statement reads:

With the goal of promoting and empowering female athleticism, is an online network that connects the best blogs relating to women's sports. The site aims to raise the level of awareness of women in sport by providing comprehensive sport coverage, spotlighting outstanding achievements, and working with sporting associations on advocacy issues and empowering programs.

This is a unique opportunity to combine my research and running interests. I am honored to be a part of such a great group.

My husband and I celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary by attending the US Track and Field Olympic Team Trials in Eugene, OR. In addition to tweeting race updates using the iPhone app Splitcaster, I wrote reviews of the major distance running days and had the honor of interviewing several fantastic female athletes, including Stephanie Brown-Trafton, Lauren Bonds and Kara Goucher for WTS. The SBT interview is posted and the others are upcoming.

Who knows if my institution will count the posts for WTS, which do go through an editor, in my tally towards  Full Professor. Regardless, it is an exciting new adventure that serves as a reprieve to the hours of OLS, heteroskedasticity and serial correlation.

You can read and share my posts for Women Talk Sports at


Saturday, June 16, 2012


Sometimes the hardest thing to do is believe.

During the school year I champion my students and advisees to believe in their ability to do great things and often more than they currently think possible. Their world is so new and full of promise. I particularly urge the females forward as we are so rare in the world of economics. The Roanoke College Economics Class of 2012 was not rare with three females in a group of fifteen. I am overjoyed when advisees like Marko text me that they were accepted to graduate school, Justin emails me with updates from graduate school and lacrosse in England and Sara tells me about her amazing new job. At some point each of these amazing young people needed to hear from me that they need to believe.

I am terrible about taking my own advice. I am blessed to have a mother, a coach, a husband and friends to remind me that I too can do great things, but at times I struggle, something that is hard for me to admit.

Let's take running. This summer I have been working on form and speed with the goal of running a new marathon PR in October. Workouts are going according to plan, but I keep doubting myself. Why am I not faster yet with all of this work? Should my mileage be higher? How am I going to run this pace for 26.2 miles in only 18 weeks? Weren't my paces faster last winter? Grrrr!

During workouts and races the monkey mind has been showing up telling me that I will die if I push harder...saying words like "can't", "don't" or plain old "no".

What is a girl to do?

BIA Training Journal
Recently I bought two copies of Lauren Fleshmen and Roisin McGettigan's Believe I Am Training Journal: one for my departing running buddy and good friend Jackie and one for me. I thought that even if we couldn't train together after her move to Florida, we could use the same journal (put together by some of our favorite female distance runners) and share our training journey through written words.

Throughout the journal are inspirational statements and suggestions that have helped the authors and other runners in their careers. There is a focus on making running simple and joyful. Most of us run for the joy that running brings. Although the joy of a great race or workout is always followed eventually by the heartache of a fail, we keep going because we love the sport and the journey for the joyous experiences.

Visual cue from BIA
Distance runners, in my experience, are experts at making the simple act of running very complicated. In reality, who cares if I do fail a workout or race? I can still get out and run the next day and with the grace of God I will be able to chase my joy for decades to come.

This month's training journal page is titled "Strength, courage & wisdom". Monkey mind be vanquished with my three ninja stars: the physical body, the heart and the mind! In order for these weapons to be effective, I must BELIEVE! I publicly advise myself to dream big and believe that my goals can be reached. Thank you Ro and Lo for reminding me daily how to do so.

If you need a training weapon for your demons, I suggest trying out the Believe I Am Training Journal.

I'll be throwing stars this summer, so watch out!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Zurich and Italy: Research and running week #2, Part 1

May 8th was our last day in Lucerne and my goal was to find the local track for a workout before we left. This track is well known for the amazing view of Mount Pilatus along the homestretch. The track hosts one of the Euro Meeting International Track and Field events each year. Last year's results show Walter Dix winning the 200 in 20.02, Dwight Thomas winning the 110 hurdles in 13.29, Alice Schmidt going sub 2:00 in the 800 to best Maggie Vessey and Delilah Dicrescenzo getting third in the 3,000 steeple (9:42). Obviously a high quality meet and a track that I wanted to run on.

Warm-up with Mt. Pilatus
Football arena next door
Checking the map from the hotel I found that the track was only 2K from where we were! Perfect for a short warm-up, workout and back to get the bus for Milan. The warm-up was rather uneventful (only worried that I was lost once), although beautiful.

The track is next to a large soccer (football) stadium that opened last year, replacing an older stadium at the same site. To my delight, the track was open to the public! On I went.

Just as I read, Mt. Pilatus looks over the home stretch and offers a breathtaking view. Coach Tom had a nasty workout for me (reps with "float" recoveries), so the distraction of Pilatus and the thought of toeing the line where superstars have done the same was much appreciated.

I got back to the hotel with enough time to change and head to the bus. Our bus driver Giuseppe showed mad skills in maneuvering his machine through the narrow, cobbled streets of Lucerne and on to the highways. We were off to Milan! Switzerland was magnificent. I highly recommend a visit to anyone.

Pilatus on the homestretch
Be back with more soon from the fashion capital of the world,

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Zurich and Italy: Research and running Week #1

The NACDS (North American Clinical Dermatological Society) travels to a different country each year for their conference. Sessions occur in the morning for CME credit, leaving time to tour the city/country in the afternoon. My mother is on the BOD for the group. Being on sabbatical I am able to join her this year for the conference to Switzerland and Italy. My sister also came along, so we had a Kassens girls trip.

The first week was in Zurich and Luzern. I gave a lecture on May 5 on the economic consequences of PPACA. They earned an hour of CME credit for it! It is always interesting to present this material to folks strongly connected to the health care markets. Many of the physicians in the group are business owners, making the employer mandate an important business concern. In addition to enjoying the session, several complimented the Prezi application I used for the presentation. Several folks want to adopt it for presentations after seeing how "neat" it looks.

Zurich is home to one of the Diamond League Track and Field meets. On the first day in Zurich we took the public transit to Letzigrund Stadium. This track has a distinctive roof and the track sits below street level. The track was open, so we walked down to the track and saw some male sprinters go through a workout. I will have to watch for them on TV when the meet is televised in August.

Another great aspect of being in a different country is the opportunity to run in new places. Zurich has some great routes around Lake Zurich, but my favorite runs were those up Uetliberg (2864 feet). There is a bike path to a park keeping you off the high traffic roads. From the park there are wide smooth trails up the mountain and steeper single track routes. I tried both out and always left wishing that I had more time to play around up there. Amazing views of the city and lake and well marked trails (some even with lamps lighting the way). Some sections had very soft peat and chips. Great on the legs, especially when the runs were finished with some long, steep downhills on pavement back towards the city.

After staying in Zurich for three days we took a bus then a ferry to Lucern. On the way we stopped in a small town on Lake Lucerne which had spectacular views of the mountains, particularly Pilatus. Apparently this mountain was named for Pontius Pilat and legend has it he is buried there. Pilatus is about 7,000 feet. There is a cog railway that will take you to the observatory at the top which is the steepest in the world. I found out that this summer there is a series of races here, including one that races to the top of Pilatus! The series is called Mountain Man.

Lucerne was not to be outdone by Zurich for hospitality, beauty, history or running! Among the highlights of the old city is a bridge crossing the river dating back to the 15th century. People bustle across it on the way to and from work or other destinations daily. Queen Victoria once visited Lucern and stayed in Gutsch Castle, which is a hotel overlooking the city. The structure was built in the 1800s and modeled after Neuschwanstein (crazy King Ludwig, Germany). I ran to Gutsch and on the amazing trail system behind it. Later I walked back with my mother and sister and took pictures from the castle.

Today we leave for Milan. Before our bus leaves, I plan to do a speed workout from Coach Tom that I can do on the roads or the track. I am going to try to get into the national stadium (Allmend) with the backup option of the Alpenquai. I am really hoping that I can get on the track. It is home to Lucern's Euro Meeting track and field meet

Monday, April 23, 2012

Rutgers Research Trip #1-Part 1

Week #1
My biggest ongoing research project concerns the impact of clinical depression on the labor market outcomes of young adults (20-34 yrs.). I started this project in 2009 with Dr. William M. Rodgers III of Rutgers University. This is a special project for a variety of reasons, one being that I get to work with my undergraduate professor and adviser, now friend and mentor.

The project will likely result in at least three manuscripts. The first two are our current focus. I traveled to New Jersey to both work with Bill in person and to access restricted data at the RDC @CUNY-Baruch College.  Last year I secured the VFIC Mednick Memorial Fellowship to fund the trip. My traveling poodles, Millie and Lily, accompanied me on the trip (although they do not get to go into the city.)

I met with Bill twice in the first week. The first meeting was to set a plan for this trip and the one in July. Last Wednesday we met at a Starbucks near where Bill had a TV interview with EBRU for the show EBRU Today. This week he discussed equality for women in the workplace. We hammered out a 3+ hour session reviewing the results generated over the past few months, namely a meta analysis of a set of depression impacts from three data sets and three measures of depression and a decomposition of the therapy effects on labor markets outcomes for the clinically depressed. The later analysis is similar to a decomposition of the earnings gap between men and women.

Several major items came out of our meeting. We decided that it was important to use quantile regression techniques, in addition to Heckman selection models, to analyze hours of work. That become one of my tasks for the remainder of the week. Additionally, in the therapy decomposition, an indicator for health insurance should be included. It will be interesting to see the impact of this variable as some mental health professionals do not deal with health insurance making the patient responsible for reimbursement from the insurer and initially having to cover the office visit. Could this create disparities between low- and middle/upper-income households? Finally we need to try a set of industry indicators as labor market outcomes vary by industry, particularly during periods of economic downturn.

How has my time management been? I have found that I am most productive in the early morning (5:30-10:00 am) and the evening (5:30-10:30 pm) on this trip. Thus my routine has evolved into two intensive sessions a day sandwiching a running session and non-research related work. One afternoon I even participated in my student's (Sara Caudle) Honors in the Major presentation via conference call.  I have also been working on the dreaded academic assessment report for the RC Economics Program. I am getting a considerable amount completed, so I will stick with this schedule.

Rutgers track facilty
Running is also getting on track after an ankle scare two weeks ago. I sprained my ankle running on the Mill Mountain trails with friends. Thankfully it was nothing major and after some rest, lots of cold/hot contrast therapy and gritting my teeth through some runs I am back in order. I did my first track workout at Rutgers University's track. The facility is next to the basketball arena (imagine the crowds for some of those Big East match-ups!) I also went to Princeton University last Friday evening to watch the Larry Ellis Invitational. Some impressive performances including a high school female running 2:05 in the 800 and another going 16:15 in the 5K!

Over 5000 runners!
Sunday I did the 8K at the Unite Half Marathon @ Rutgers University as a rust buster. This course was challenging with lots of long steady climbs after 2.5 miles. I was the first female and second overall in a field of over 700 runners. The time was nothing to write home about, but a good tempo effort, especially just 4 weeks after a marathon with very few workouts under my belt. I also had the pleasure of running my friend and research colleague, Dr. Yana Rodgers (Bill's wife and my Economics of Development professor at the College of William and Mary), in the last few miles of the half marathon. She ran close to her personal best and we hope qualified for a big half marathon in New York. I also met several other female runners on my cool-down. Running is such a great community activity in addition to its health benefits. There were over 4500 runners in the half marathon! Luckily the three inches of rain the area was suppose to get held off until the half was almost over.

This week will be much of the same, save a trip or to into NYC to visit the RDC.

Happy running and research,

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A running & research long weekend - Part 4

Day 5 - Race day
My little girl, Millie
My alarm went off at 3:00 am. 6:30 am race starts are early! And I need to give at least three hours for my final calories to digest. Got up with my sweet little girls (Millie and Lily) to have oatmeal with a touch of granola, Hammer Heed and a nice cup of coffee:) I have been eating oatmeal every morning for some time now, including big long-run workouts, so I know that it works well with me. Keeping the fluids pumping in with some additional calories through Heed. I drink coffee every morning (and many other times during the day/night), so I don't want to change that, even though I don't need any help waking up this morning. I am so excited for the race.

After eating I did some work on my depression project and readied my marathon iPod play list to keep my mind off of  the race. The only time I let myself think about it was when I needed to do something for the race, such as drink some fluid, shower or checking that my Perpetuem bottles were ready for my mother to bring to the race course. Staying only in the moment helps me avoid race-day jitters and get "monkey mind."

I left my mother's house at 5:15 am to drive to Wrightsville Beach park and the start line. As I drove past the  Landfall entrance that marathoners would be going through three times this morning there was considerable police and EMT activity. I texted Coach/Race Director Tom Clifford in case the road was going to close. That would be a mess! We later learned that the commotion was for a race volunteer who was hit by a drunk driver. He amazingly only broke his ankle. WOW.  Talk about someone looking out for you.

Warm-up 5:45 am
100% humidity and temps already around 60 degrees met us this morning. I am so glad that I was aggressive as possible with hydration yesterday. The key to a decent race will be conservative running, keeping fluids and calories coming in, and patience. A PR is not likely in the cards, but competing and going for the win still is. After going through some dynamic stretches, I got my iPod out and started an easy 10:00 jog with strides on the loop, visualizing the first part of the race. I was happy and at peace, which is the best way to go into a marathon. Nerves were calmed by seeing running buddies Melanie, Melissa, Crotty, John, Leigh, Jason and Kyle plus coaches Tom and Brian before the start, as we waited for Tom's big AC/DC Thunderstruck race start. Just before the start, I looked up to see my husband, Brandon. What I surprise! He drove down after a meet at Lynchburg College and stayed at my sister's. What a way to start a race. That and the rocking AC/DC pump up:) Now to run like I mean it!

Race 6:40-9:40 am
Once the gun goes off in a marathon, I am always so much more relaxed than the days leading up to that moment. I have heard some say that the hardest part of running a marathon is stepping up to the line. It can be daunting to think about the challenge that awaits:) Amazingly all of the tightness and awkward running feeling that I had been having for the last three weeks was gone. I felt super smooth and knew by mile one if I ran smart I would have a good race (given the conditions). The lead biker picked me up after leaving Harbor Island around three miles. There is nothing that gets you going like seeing a bike pull up next to you with the sign "Marathon - Female Leader" on it. It still gives me chills. When I passed Christa and Tom for the first time I gave them big thumbs up, letting them know it was a good day.

My mother, Brandon and hat:)
As we came onto Military Cutoff for the first time, the crowds were amazing. This is one of the reasons why I love this race. People are up and going nuts early on a Sunday! I kept an eye out for my "crew" of Brandon, Kate, and my mother who had my bottles of Perpetuem. Luckily Brandon had a huge leprechaun hat on, which made his already 6'2" frame visible in the dense fog. The plan was to pickup a new 14 oz. bottle when I passed them at miles 5, 12 and 22. Turned out to be a very good plan, and in fact I held on to each until I came to the next. I was pushing fluids throughout the entire race. Something I learned at a very hot marathon many years ago. I also took Endurolyte capsules every two miles.

Yucky mile focus
I felt great through 16-18 miles, with a slight bad spot at 14. This is normal, as I think that the body switches energy sources around 14 miles. As my friend Tara says, "Good miles can still come." I just know that I have to run though a few yucky ones. Luckily seeing friends in Landfall helped bring a smile to my face during this period. Being in the moment and smiling helps so much.

I am also a big fan of music, especially in races where you will be alone without other runners. Some of the tunes that got me through Quintiles 2012 were "Lose yourself," "Dr. Feelgood," "We are young," and, coincidentally over the final miles when the cramping set in, "Living dead girl." There was also a little Britney, J-Lo and Pink in there I will admit:)

Mile 22
By the time I got to my family the last time my calves were ready to cramp. The key to the final 10K was going to be staying off of my toes as much as possible. Although I had been on PR pace through halfway, surprising myself with some sub 6:40 mile splits (although I backed off each time knowing that dehydration was coming with the weather), the weather was taking its toll. I had a large enough lead that as long as my muscles did not completely lock-up I would win. I focused on enjoying what was left of the race and slowing my pace enough to not lose my calves completely.

Mile 26.1
High five Dan & Christa
Coming into the finish was amazing. WOL teammates were out in force. I had made it through despite the weather. I even got to high-five friends as I came in. I actually did not even care that the clock had already gone over three hours. I truly enjoyed this race and did the best that I could on the day. Hard work paid off, and my doubts over the last few weeks were for nothing. The time was not what I had trained for, but given the weather, it was a great job. Not that long ago I was struggling to finish a marathon.

Good times will come if I keep doing what I am doing and listening to my coach. I have a great running support group and enjoy the training process. I learned that the taper can be TERRIBLE, but when the gun goes off I can feel great. Tom always says that trust is so important, and this was the perfect example. He knows what he is doing, and if I trust the process, it will work out. Think of all of the wasted energy over the last few weeks! I am so grateful to have people who listened to my carrying on and sometimes crying (Tom, Christa, Matthew, Jackie, Brandon and Leigh to name a few). I am so lucky.

Here is to recovery, extra research time (and gardening in this beautiful weather) and focus on the Columbus Marathon 2012,

Thank you Daddy
PS-I have run the Quintiles Marathon three years in a row in memory of my father, William Diedrick Kassens Jr. who died unexpectedly February 18, 2010. I race with a mini bow tie patch on my uniform in memory of his everyday fashion that many remember him for. He was with me throughout the race and through life.

I miss you so very much. This race & win was for you Daddy.

Friday, March 30, 2012

By demand: Printable Prezi from TMI

The same presentation that I posted earlier today is now available in a printable pdf version. A warning: it is 125 pages (yes, that is how many "slides" we went through last night).

2012 TMI Health Economics Presentation


A night away from sabbatical to give a lecture on health economics and PPACA

Last night I gave a lecture on health economics and PPACA's employer mandate for the 2012 Management Institute at Roanoke College.

The Management Institute, directed by Dr. Ali Nazemi, has the following mission:
The mission of The Management InstituteSM is to provide the Roanoke Valley Business Community with a viable management education program that is timely, competitive, informative, and thereby assists in the continued educational development of middle and upper level managers. The Management Institute was developed by Roanoke College to meet the management training needs specific to the Roanoke Valley as identified by local business leaders. The Institute believes that continuous learning in today's changing environment is a critical necessity.

I had a group of about 20 students last night, all coming from a long day of work for a 6:30-9:00 pm lecture (on economics no less). They were full of smiles, chatting with each other over coffee before we started. Clearly they have developed great camaraderie over the 12 week course. Despite having close to a 12-hour day when all was said and done, they were fantastic. All were alert, asking great questions and picking up on the concept of marginal product faster than any class I have had.  RC undergraduates: watch out!

Once again, I used Prezi for this presentation. This time, since I knew that the brand new, fancy-pants Lucas Hall had reliable internet, I did not download it prior. I used the live version, although I did have my iPad with the Prezi app ready in case something went wrong. If you want a crash course in health economics and the employer mandate, check out the Prezi:

The lecture focused on modeling health via a production function, and discussing the inputs into good health, such as technology, medical care, environment, etc. We reviewed the common measures for health in this set  up (mortality rates, life expectancy and morbidity) and how to interpret the results from these production functions. For example, we could estimate the impact of stress on the incidence of heart attacks among middle-age business owners.

The second part of the lecture covered the environment surrounding PPACA ("The Health Care Bill") and the economic impact of one specific component, the employer mandate. It was a different experience to present scenarios, such as "What do you do if you have 48 full-time workers, but demand for your product is expected to grow over the coming years?" Unlike undergraduates, these students will actually have to answer these questions. Without hesitation, they answered "only hire part-time workers", "contract out work", "hire temps". All correct.

The TMI lecture was also a learning experience for me. Just like touring a hospital in Ireland and meeting with the head of a department and patients was a valuable experience for teaching about nationalized health care, talking with business owners, managers and the like was an educational experience for me for understanding the labor market in the Roanoke Valley and the potential impact of the employer mandate. The personalities, humor, smiles and intelligence of the group was an added bonus.

Thank you and good luck TMI Class of 2012,

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A running & research long weekend - Part 3

Day 4 - Packet pick-up & carb loading
A nice day to relax and get my mind ready for the marathon tomorrow. Before meeting my mother and sister for lunch at Two Guys, I went by Mayfaire to get my race packet.  My number is 250...sounds good! Without Limits runners and coaches were everywhere. You could feel the anxious energy in the tent as people picked up their numbers, checked out the race course map, and purchased final supplies. Conversations abounded of the humidity that was going to greet us tomorrow, debates of the trade off between wind and humidity, etc.  Weather is one of the few things that a marathoner has no control over and it can be extremely frustrating.  Tomorrow calls for near 100% humidity with temps starting around 60 at 6:30 AM.  For a marathoner...that can be trouble.  Optimal temperatures are 40-50 and over 55 brings negative returns.

Although I cannot change the weather, I can take precautions and plan.  The days leading up to a marathon require increased carbohydrate intake (not too much or you will be in the port-a-john by mile 10...although they are pink on the Quintiles cute:)) and fluids. Hammer Nutrition offers a great hydrating tool: Endurolyte Fizz. The Fizz comes in tablets that dissolve in water, producing a tasty, fizzy drink that not only hydrates, but also keeps your electrolytes up to delay cramping in the race. In my first attempt at the marathon in 2000, fearing dehydration I drank an unbelievable amount of water the day before and completely flushed the electrolytes out of my body. Result: Epic fail in my first marathon attempt. In fact I was pulled from the course as I was weaving around. My body temp had dropped to 95 and I had to get two IVs before I was returned to the finish line where my buddy Ashley Dorroh was worriedly waiting for me. Too much water can lead to the condition hyponatremia, in which there is not enough sodium in the body fluids outside of the cells. This can be a deadly condition. I have not made that mistake again.

Another part of my plan was to continually take fluid during the race.  For runs and races over two hours I love to use Perpetuem. Not only does it keep fluids coming in, but it has a significant number of calories, including some from protein. In runs and races over two hours, taking in some protein can help slow down muscle deterioration and keep you going stronger longer. I try out all supplements for race day in long-run workouts prior the race to avoid unexpected and unwanted race day surprises. Again, something I had to learn the hard way (Philadelphia 2008 was one such unpleasant day, which again was a DNF). Perpetuem has enough calories that it can be used in replacement of gels. My race day plan was to have 14 oz. bottles of perpetuem waiting for me at mile 5, 12 and 22.

After a great lunch with family, I relaxed for the rest of the day, sipping on fluids and snacking on carbs. That night my mother made a fantastic turkey crumble pasta sauce with linguine. This is the same thing she made last year before this race, expect this time she made the base for the sauce the weekend before and we added spices and browned turkey to it. It was super-yum. I try to avoid fats the night before and over-eating. Eating heaps of pasta the night before the race is not a good idea. You will wake up feeling full and likely needing to take unwanted stops during the race the next day (if you have not noticed, I try very hard to avoid those stops:))

Before bed, I read over my journal of quotes and mental toughness exercises. I have struggled the three weeks coming into this race, and getting my head straight was going to be very important. I cannot change the weather, but I can step to the line with confidence, peace, and MAlice. One of my favorites is "When you give up wanting something special something special happens."

Tomorrow...race day. No monkey mind!  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A running & research long weekend - Part 2

Day 2 - Presentation, run, dinner and basketball
My plenary session presentation went off without a hitch.  The Prezi was very popular.  Lots of "ooo" and "ahhhh". I again highly recommend using Prezi in your next presentation. I find that it is best to download the presentation (it goes into a pdf) onto a memory stick rather than rely on the presentation room having reliable internet.  That would be quite embarrassing if the internet was down for your presentation! The downloaded form works the same as what you developed online.  You cannot edit this version however.  Another useful item is that remotes for PowerPoint presentations will also work with Prezi, even in the pdf format. The presentation generated some great questions and was a good lead in for the following presentation by Ray Owens of the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank on the national and international economy.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Afterwards I met up with my students (Nathan Castellano and Marko Krkeljas) and told them the plan for the rest of the day. The main item was to be at the dinner in which a great meal was to be had, followed by an interesting William A. Sandridge Lecture given by George Mason University's  Donald J. Boudreaux entitled "Economists and Imagination."

Before dinner I squeezed in my scheduled 35 minute run with strides. This is the second to last run before my marathon as I have a scheduled day off tomorrow. The weather was amazing. It is hard to believe that it is March! My legs are still feeling a bit off, so I again iced in the 50 degree ocean after my run. I did not get as many strange stares as I did last night when I soaked. I was still the only one braving the water. 

Virginia Beach
VAE host hotel
The run itself took me along the boardwalk, which was full of runners, Ocean Front Avenue, which has some beautiful homes and landscaping, and back to the boardwalk for 4 x 100m strides. Running in this setting always makes a "not-so-hot" run much better. How can one argue with ocean views and warm weather in mid-March? Also inspiring was watching the set up underway for the Yingling Shamrock Marathon to be held on Sunday. The beer tent and finish line (or should I put that in the reverse order?) were directly in front of the conference hotel (Hilton on Atlantic Avenue)

The dinner was fantastic. It is always great to get together with the VAE gang. After the lecture we went a block over to Murphy's to watch some NCAA Basketball. This is part of our annual tradition. We watched VCU pull off a win. For the first time since I have been with the VAE we got to sit outside to watch the games as the weather was unseasonably warm.

Day 3 - Elections and student presentations
Friday morning was another eventful one. The VAE business meeting started at 8:30. I was honored to be elected President of the VAE. I will serve as President-elect to Francis Bush of VMI who was handed the President's Gavel by now Past-President Elizabeth Sizemore-Perry. Very exciting stuff.

At 9:15 I chaired one of the student sessions. This happened to be the session that Nathan and Marko were presenting their papers. The three students presenting (my students and CNU's Kathryn Fitzgerald) were fantastic. Kathryn kicked the session off with her analysis "Economic Development & Gender Inequalities in Culture".  I never knew that there were indexes to measure culture and its impact on economies.  Kathryn even developed her own index and compared her results to the existing indexes. Marko followed with his paper "Determinants of Call and Put Options". Marko exhibited his passion for options and trading and the skills he acquired in his internship last summer. Nathan wrapped up the session with his study " Student Satisfaction And Perceived Support".  This study used data gathered by Dr. Julie Lyon of Roanoke College at the University of Maryland. His analysis found that having an academic advisor that encourages teaching is crucial to developing future college professors and graduate student satisfaction. All were smooth, professional and obviously knowledgeable of their topics. Kathryn is attending graduate school in economics next year. I am sure that she will excel. All students also answered questions from the audience with skill and care. I was extremely proud of them all.

Roanoke College certainly did well at the 2012 VAE Annual Meeting. Three successful presentations and an election to President! I briefly chatted with the boys, and then encouraged them to enjoy some time at the beach before the headed back to Salem.  Hopefully they do not fulfill the local prosecutors' motto: Come on vacation, leave on probation!

Now it is on to the third stage of my weekend: Wilmington and the Quintiles Marathon at Wrightsville Beach.  More to come...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A running & research long weekend - Part 1

This long weekend is the type of weekend that I adore. A lot of economics and a lot of running.

First stop: Virginia Beach, VA for the 2012 Virginia Association for Economists Annual Meeting. It all kicks off today with our Board of Directors Meeting, followed by the plenary session. For the first time I will be presenting in this session. I will be discussing the results from my work with the IPOR on Virginia Consumer Sentiment. After a second afternoon session, there is a small break and then a dinner. Two of my students will arrive this afternoon. Marko Krkeljas and Nathan Castellano are presenting their papers from econometrics in the student research session Friday morning. I will chair their session tomorrow and am excited to see them show off their hard work.

Second stop: Wilmington, NC for the 2012 Quintiles Marathon at Wrightsville Beach on Sunday. The plan is to leave VA Beach Friday around lunch to make it to ILM for dinner with my mom. I will have all day Saturday to rest and get ready for the marathon.

This blog post is a part of a series of this filled weekend. Staying calm will be crucial to presenting well today and running well Sunday.

Day 1 - Travel
I had a great send off yesterday by Macy and Dean. It is always so hard to leave these cute little faces, but it has to be done.

I drove from home to Lexington and stopped at Washington and Lee University to get in my last workout before the marathon. I used the beautiful track there and got to see my husband at work. He was in the middle of a pole vault session with some of his athletes. A beautiful day to be at the track.

After lunch with Brandon I hit the road again and made my way to Virginia Beach.The traffic was light. The only surprise was my first experience paying over $4.00/gallon for gas at a station outside of Williamsburg. With my Kroger Card discount (thank you Shell for taking it!) I still paid $4.09/gallon! As I watched dollars flow out of my wallet and into my gas tank I thought about the drain on the economy that this will take over the summer. It will be tough for folks to make summer trips paying that price at the pump.  

I am staying at a hotel next door to the host hotel so that I could bring our little poodles Millie (named after my favorite economist Milton Friedman) and Lily. They are great company and a calming influence.

Before I got to work on my presentation, I went out and stood in the 50 degree ocean to ice my legs. My legs have been feeling heavy and I hope that icing a few times will help. My goal running-wise over the next few days is to stop thinking about how "bad" I have been feeling over the last few weeks and start thinking about all of the work that I have put in to get me ready for Sunday.

Day 2 - Presentation Prep

This morning I finished up my presentation. I am using Prezi for the first time. It looks amazing. Move over PowerPoint! You can find a copy of the presentation here: Although I am always anxious when I use a new medium in front of an audience. Practice, practice.

The view from my room this morning was inspiring. How can a presentation not be successful when you start the day with this view!

The second installment of this blog series will detail the presentation and other events of Day 1 at the VAE. Off to practice my Prezi...

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tapering is harder than training

I am officially less than two weeks away from the Quintiles Marathon @ Wrightsville Beach and the taper started a week ago.  Every time I do my last big long run before the taper begins I am energized thinking about all of the hard work that I have put in over the past few months and how much I will savor the taper.  I always think that I will feel snappy and full of energy during that period.

It never happens.

Every taper I struggle.  Workouts that used to be relatively easy, I cannot finish.  The confidence that I used to be brimming with, disappears.  "Can I/Should I even run the marathon?" is a question that always crosses my mind.  Yesterday I had one of those workouts that was a struggle.  My running buddy Matthew met me at 7:30 on the Greenway for 4 x 2 miles at tempo with 2:00 rests.  Before Quintiles last year I made it through three of the 2 miles, and ran some of the best splits I had at that point and was very tough mentally.  This year, different story.  I labored after the first mile and lost myself mentally.  My brain was firing panic messages and in the middle of the second repeat I pulled up.  Matthew is such a positive training partner and he tried to reason with me, but I was a blubbering mess.  (I bet he did not know what he was in for that morning!)  We pushed through a bit more, but I was done mentally.

On the way home I called my coach, Tom Clifford.  I left a message telling him about the workout (which was coming off a rough one Thursday).  I even uttered the words "I don't know if I should do Quintiles."  He called me back within a few minutes on his way to meet the team for a long run in Wilmington.  Somehow Tom knows when to be hard on me (believe me he has let me have it before...but it was always when I needed a kick the the bum) and when to not be.

"So, how was the race?  Oh yeah, I forgot, it was a workout!"  is how our conversation began.  He always has to remind me that workouts are not races, and if they don't go well it does not mean that you will not race well.  From there he was everything that a coach should be.  Reminding me to stop putting pressure on myself, how I typically do not run well while tapering (I ran a 19:30 5K two weeks before a sub-three marathon in 2003 and 2011), and it is normal to doubt yourself during the taper.  When your body is used to running 90-100 miles a week and then it drops, your body starts to repair, rest, and ready itself for the big task coming up.  This often leaves the runner physically and emotionally drained.  It is so hard for me to remember this.  I did go into the workout telling myself this was a do-or-die situation.  If I nailed it, I would run well in the marathon, if I did not, the marathon was going to be a failure.  That was too much pressure, especially for the windy and cold conditions that we had that morning.  It seems so silly as I read it now.  Why would one workout trump the last 4 months of workouts?

Tom told me to eat, relax, take a nap, and then go to the track, warm up two miles, do two at tempo, and cool down two.  The purpose was two-fold: 1) Since I did not finish the workout that morning, I needed a bit more so that I would not be too rested too soon for the marathon and 2) get my head back in the game.  He told me to run with my heart and not my head.  My husband joined me at the middle-school track in town with the wind still blowing and snow starting to fall.  On he same effort, I ran 6:01, 5:55.  I was not even breathing hard.  All heart.  When I turned in to the wind on the backstretch each time, I just put my head down, focused on form, and thought about how nice the home stretch will feel, instead of how hard it is to hold pace into the wind.

Training can be so easy once you get into a schedule, but the taper can be so hard.  It is crucial to have good friends and coaches to keep you from doubting too much.

Even though I might not run great workouts over the next two weeks, the one thing that I will focus on is having MAlice going to the start line at Quintiles and not just Alice.

Monday, February 27, 2012

iPad productivity tools

I have been considering getting an Apple iPad for some time now, but needed a true work related justification given the price tag.

Twice a year, I produce the Virginia Consumer Sentiment Index for the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College. I was on the road in the days leading up to the release of the February report. Quick responses to questions from our PR Department or reporters are crucial to the success of the index. I worried that I would get a call that required me to check my data while on the road and an answer would have to be delayed for hours. Data analysis via my iPhone, while possible using a variety of applications, is not reliable or realistic for me. It is so easy to make a mistake toying with such a small screen. Finally I had my justification for an iPad purchase. If a call was received, I could easily access a workable version of my spreadsheets and documents and respond to most questions.

I have had the iPad for a week today. WOW! I continue to find additional work related uses for it. On Friday I asked my Facebook friends to tell me the apps that they found most useful for enhancing productivity. One of my running buddies, Gabe Salinas, said that "Numbers" was one that he could not live without. The app has a $9.99 price tag, but has already earned its weight in gold.

"Numbers" is a spreadsheet application with remarkable capabilities. Data entry, including the use of formulas, is similar to Excel. Attractive and professional forms and visuals (graphs, charts, etc.) are easily created and inserted into reports. Additionally, all creations can be printed or shared and can be backed up using iCloud and Dropbox.

On Friday I clerked at the Old Dominion Athletic Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships hosted by Washington and Lee University and held at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. My husband is the Head Men's Track and Field Coach at Washington and Lee University and I work at Roanoke College and am a big supporter of their track team, so I was more than happy to lend a hand. Typically there are considerable down-periods clerking, so I took along my iPad. Using "Numbers", I was able to be quite productive during these periods working on my regression tables for one of my manuscripts. I accessed the Excel spreadsheets via Dropbox and was able to sync all of the progress I made while at the meet. The iPad was much easier to tote than a laptop as it fit neatly in my purse and I could easily turn it off and on when athletes were not checking in for an event.

As a researcher, "Numbers" is well worth the price. I can imagine its usefulness for coaches keeping track of stats or for anyone needing to access forms on the go. If you have an iPad, you must give this app a try. Plus, it has fully justified my iPad purchase and I can get on playing "Words with Friends".

Tweet your favorite apps, work-related or not, @RnningEconomist

Monday, February 20, 2012

Benefits of changing work environments

The past 10 days I have been on the road.  First to Wilmington, NC to see my mother and sister, run with Without Limits and see other friends, then on to Myrtle Beach, SC for the Dasani Half Marathon.

I brought my laptop, notebooks, etc. and was very productive research-wise, particularly on the depression project with Bill.  Over that time period I wrote code using the svy function in Stata for both the difference in means and regressions, tabulated the difference in means and continue to work through the regression results.  The svy function is great when using weights!  Additionally I organized (at the request of Bill) a session proposal for the 2013 ASSA/AEA meeting (the big economics conference...yes, the nerds will invade San Diego in January 2013).  We got folks from Duke University, UCLA, NCSU, Washington and Lee University, University of Minnesota, and the Thought Leadership Institute on board.  Hopefully our session is accepted as it looks fantastic.  The topic of our session is the effect of mental and emotional health and stress on labor market outcomes over the business cycle.  If you just got giddy, well... never mind.

I had to stay an extra day in Myrtle Beach due to the snow storm in Virginia.  Despite this, I was quite productive.  I have found that changing environments enhances my productivity.  When I stay in one location for too long I lose my focus and find myself watching too many reruns of Real Housewives of _________.  Don't get me wrong, we all need a little NeNe, but eventually I have to put my foot down and find a new place to work.

Changes of environment don't require five-six hour drives and hotels.  Simply moving my setup from home to Mill Mountain Coffee & Tea does the trick.  I am not sure why this works for me or if it works for others, but on this sabbatical I am desperate to get a large amount of research done and I will do what it takes.

I returned to Virginia this afternoon and am hopeful that this productivity rush will continue.  Otherwise, I might have to move on from NeNe to Tamra.